BALTIMORE CITY — With a big assist from his father, Torrence White, 8, has no missed a day of school this year.
Considering Torrence missed almost 50 days of school last year, his perfect attendance thus far is a really big deal for the third-grader and his family.
"I get him up, get him ready and get him out the door," said Terrence White, the boy's father. "I get him going each day."
Torrence was one of 20 students who live in the Flag House Courts public housing complex in East Baltimore and who were honored yesterday for their stellar attendance records at City Springs Elementary School. They were guests of honor at a luncheon at the Flag House Courts Community Center.
All of the students had truancy problems last year, but they have had few absences this year.
Torrence, who lives in the high-rise building at 127 S. Exeter St., said his absences last year were caused by his mother's illness. He had to stay home to help care for his younger sister.
"I didn't feel too bad when I missed [school]," Torrence said. "I stayed home and played with my sister. But I missed math and spelling."
This year, with his mother healthy and his father's assistance, Torrence has perfect attendance.
"Sometimes he doesn't just get me out the door, he throws me out. He pushes me out," Torrence said.
Last year, the school system, the mayor's office and the Baltimore City Housing Authority launched the city-wide "Truancy and Drop-Out Prevention Program." The aim of the program is to get parents more involved in their children's schooling, said Samuel Little, assistant director of the housing authority.
The program appears to be paying dividends at Flag House where the students honored yesterday have an attendance rate of 85 percent or better after having been absent from school at least two days each week last year, Mr. Little said.
"That's a substantial improvement," he said. "So often recognition for attendance is not given. When there's a reason to celebrate, then celebrate."
Melvin Barnes, 7, arrived early for yesterday's ceremony as he often does for school.
Last year, Melvin, who lives in a high-rise building at 107 Albemarle St., missed more than 40 days of school.
"When I don't go to school, I don't learn," Melvin explained his improved attendance. "I want to go as much as I can."
Melvin's parents are strict about his attendance. Ronald White, his father, walks him to school in the morning and picks him up in the afternoon, and tells him often about the importance of going to school.
"If kids don't go to school, that makes them turn to drugs," Mr. White said. "Kids here need to keep their minds occupied."